(Matt Dilyard - College of Wooster)
WOOSTER - Jaylen Franklin is no stranger to traveling. The 6'1 junior guard attended three separate high schools and previously attended the University of Massachusetts-Amherst before enrolling at the College of Wooster. While it hasn't been easy, Franklin has found a way to get accustomed every new situation he's encountered in his life.
"I've never really had the chance to sit and think about all the people and experiences I've had because of basketball. It's kind of overwhelming whenever I do think about it because basketball has sort of shaped who I am today," Franklin said. He's already created an impact for the 4-1 Wooster Fighting Scots, who host conference-rival Wabash College on Saturday. His smooth shooting stroke and calming presence he brings to the team has been a pleasant addition to the traditionally successful Wooster Basketball program.
Before coming to Wayne County, Franklin's journey has featured many successes along with failures, that he believes is what makes him the player he is today. "I played Division 1 basketball at Umass for three years and it was some of the greatest times of my life. My teammates and some of the friends and memories that I made during my time in Amherst is something I'll cherish forever," Franklin said. However, Franklin role for the Minutemen wasn't something he was happy with. "One thing I'll always remember from my time at Umass was all the work I put in. I remember putting up close to 1,000 shots up a day, working out at 2 am, lifting weights every morning, it was a lot," Franklin said with a relieved smile on his face.
All the hard work has seemingly began to pay off for Franklin as he's off to a hot start for the Fighting Scots. In just 5 games, Franklin is the Scot's leading scorer off the bench and considered a piece of Wooster's lethal three point shooting combo, which features veteran players Danyon Hempy, Trenton Tipton, and Keonn Scott as well. His best performance came in a 13 point effort in just 15 minutes in a win against Hiram College, where Franklin netted 8 straight points in just 48 seconds to put the game out of reach for the Terriers. Franklin credits his hot start to the change of scenery.
"I guess I just needed the opportunity, at Umass my role on the team wasn't really that significant but I always knew I could play," Franklin said. "When I'm on the basketball court I have no fears, I've been playing this game for a really long time so the way I look at it is every time we step on the court there's nothing that's going to happen that I haven't seen before so I just go out and play and let loose".
He's done exactly that as Franklin has clearly established himself as a major key to the Fighting Scots success early on. The Scots have recently bumped up in the Top 25 National Poll to #16. Once again, Wooster is one of the clear favorites to win the NCAC and bring one more conference title to Timken Gymnasium for Coach Steve Moore, who is retiring after this season.
While Franklin understands how much the game of basketball means in Wooster, due to the rich tradition of the basketball program, he plays the game for something much bigger than himself. "I'm a kid from Springfield, Massachusetts. It's a rough city to grow up in, you are forced to figure out early what you want to do in life or you'll get swallowed by the streets and violence. What keeps me going is knowing I can be one of the guys who makes it out of Springfield and show kids that it's possible to create a better life for yourself. I carry Springfield with me wherever I go, it's who I am, you have to be from there to understand," Franklin said with a exuberant smile on his face.
While his home is where the heart is, Wooster is just another stop for Franklin and his journey.